Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

At The Border

01/28/2013 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about borders.

The U.S.-Canadian border at Saulte-Ste. Marie. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Unspoiled Corner Of The Balkans

01/21/2013 - 19:00
Travel Writer

In the tiny corner of the Balkans where Greece, Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia meet, ethnic identity is as fascinatingly diverse as the climate.

The historical region and population of Macedonia today sprawls across three countries — Greek claims on the name notwithstanding. It is not unusual to find ex-Yugoslavs with cousins across the mountains in Bulgaria, Bulgarians who speak a local Macedonian dialect, Muslim Slavs whose ancestors converted during Ottoman days, and Sephardic Jewish teens from Thessaloniki crossing the border for ski weekends.

Old Town in Blagoevgrad, top. Above, Bansko in summer. Hilary Larson

A Nostalgia For Jewish Culture

01/14/2013 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Two and a half hours east of Warsaw, Lublin lies in Poland’s far east, near the Ukrainian border. Step off the train in Lublin’s central station and you emerge into a palette of dark gray — from the leaden skies of Europe’s far north to the shadowy cobble-stoned streets of Old Town, with its soot-stained prewar buildings.

Lublin, whose architecture exudes Old World charm, is a bustling city that is a candidate for European Culture Capital 2016.

A Newly Trendy Paradise

01/07/2013 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Ah, the South Seas! When you hear the name Tahiti, do you think of Gauguin? Or “South Pacific”?

January getaway: An aerial view of Bora Bora, which neighbors Tahiti. Courtesy of

This City Rocks

01/01/2013 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Maybe it’s because I’m a born-and-bred East Coaster from a long line of born-and-bred East Coasters who rarely, if ever, ventured west of New Jersey.

I guess that’s why for me, the West Coast feels like the far edge of the world — a rugged frontier where the sun sets over the unimaginable vastness of the Pacific, where people wind down at night while most of the world is firmly into the next day.

Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project rock-and-roll museum with the Space Needle in the background.  Tim Thompson/Courtesy SCVB

Five Must-See Spots In ’13

12/25/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

More than once, taking in all the chaos of 2012, I thought about making a year-end list of destinations to avoid rather than places to go.

But optimism got the better of me. And so the theme for 2013 is renewal — seeing the familiar with fresh eyes, uncovering novelty in well-trodden regions. Here are my top picks for travel in what I hope will be a wonderful year for all:

Milford Sound in New Zealand.

Paradise With Plenty To Do

12/17/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

St. Thomas, the cosmopolitan hub of the Caribbean, is for New Yorkers who want to get away — but not from it all. In a region of sleepy cays and solitary beaches, St. Thomas bustles with commerce, nightlife and the Caribbean’s liveliest dining scene.

The peaceful bays and pristine beaches are there, too, for those who want them. But in this duty-free outpost of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where people drive on the left, there’s plenty to do even on a rainy day — including visits to a spectacular aquarium and one of the oldest synagogues in the Americas.

An aerial view of Charlotte Amalie, the island’s only real city. USVI Department of Tourism

A Whale Of A Trip

12/10/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

While my relatives were improvising with leftover turkey, I spent the recent holiday obsessed by a remote outpost of the Russian Federation: Chukotka.

Chukotka is the easternmost peninsula in Asia, just across the Bering Strait from Alaska (this is the part of Russia Sarah Palin might have seen from her window). The vast, frigid territory is larger than Texas but has only about 50,000 residents. And amazingly, those locals are trying to persuade outsiders to come visit — despite a lack of transportation, a brutal climate, and a location not too far from the North Pole.

Sledding across Chukotka, top. Above, whale bones on the tundra.

An Only-In-Frisco Chanukah

12/03/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Last year, I wrote about Chanukah activities in San Francisco.

This year, the topic is Christmas.

Yes, Christmas. Those ever-hip San Francisco Jews not only know how to celebrate Chanukah in wildly original style; they’ve also got Christmas covered. An array of events around town ensures that no bored Jew, in town for a visit and staring into closed shop windows, has to make do with Chinese and a movie.

Comic Judy Gold, headlines this year’s “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show.

Echoes Of Spanish Jewry

11/26/2012 - 19:00
Travel Writer

Dry as dust, with buildings as ageless and golden as the plains that surround it, Salamanca, Spain, feels like a place where Don Quixote might unpack his rucksack.

Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor, by day. Photo courtesy Salamanca Tourism
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